Reconnecting Practicing Hygienists with the Nation's Leading Educators and Researchers.

Never Stop Searching

As we strive to find conclusions related to this pandemic, one stipulation is clear: we must keep an open mind in order to reach the truth.

 Science is the search for truth” is the mantra of one of my former employers, Gary Greenstein, DDS, who is a prolific writer on all topics related to periodontology. As a dedicated clinician and well-known speaker, he knows the importance of following the science. He also knows that science is not always exact, and that it can—and should—evolve based on new discoveries and research. Gary’s voice keeps playing in my head as we’ve navigated the uncharted waters of the past 18 months. We knew nothing about SARS-CoV-2 when it swept the world and caused a pandemic. And as time passes, we are realizing that some of our initial conclusions regarding its development, transmission, and treatment weren’t accurate. Here are a few examples:

A recent study in the Journal of Dental Research questioned the theory that aerosolized saliva in asymptomatic patients contributed to the spread of COVID-19.1 The researchers found that the risk for transmission of SARS-CoV-2 “from aerosolized saliva in dental operatories is moderately low and that current infection control practices are adequately robust to protect personnel and patients alike.” Key point: dental offices that practice according to guidelines have effective infection control protocols in place to keep patients and clinicians healthy. (See “Reducing Dental Aerosols” and the “Ask the Expert “ column for more information on how to control aerosols and spatter).


The initial reports that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was spread from a “wet market” in Wuhan, China, have now been disputed. While many thought an infected pangolin or bat was responsible for the spread, others questioned that theory. As evidence grows, it now appears more plausible that the virus escaped from a biomedical lab in Wuhan.2 Key point: if science is indeed the search for truth, questioning conclusions should never be banned, but welcomed.

A newly released paper from the Department of Infectious Diseases, Infection Prevention, Quantitative Health Sciences, and Occupational Health at the Cleveland Clinic concluded that “individuals who have had SARS-CoV-2 infection are unlikely to benefit from COVID-19 vaccination, and vaccines can be safely prioritized to those who have not been infected before.”3 Key point: antibodies are developed when one contracts the virus.

An observational study of patients at St Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey analyzed the outcomes of 255 ventilated patients during the early days of the pandemic. When dosage was adjusted for weight, combined use of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin increased the survival rate of ventilated patients.4 While it’s important to note that these results have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, practice-based studies should be considered when all research related to a topic is reviewed. Key point: a controversial therapy may help some survive.

As we strive to find conclusions related to this pandemic, one stipulation is clear: we must keep an open mind in order to reach the truth. We owe it to ourselves and our patients to do so.

Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief


  1. Meethill A, Saraswat P, Chaudhary P, et al. Sources of SARS-CoV-2 and other microorganisms in dental aerosols. J Dent Res. 2021;220345211015948.
  2. Reuters. US report concluded COVID-19 may have leaked from Wuhan lab—WSJ. Available​world/​china/​us-report-concluded-covid-19-may-have-leaked-wuhan-lab-wsj-2021-06-07. Accessed June 13, 2021.
  3. Sharestha N, Burke P, Nowacki A, et al. Necessity of COVID-19 vaccination in previously infected individuals. Available​content/​10.1101/​2021.06.01.21258176v2.full. Accessed June 13, 2021.
  4. Smith L, Mendoza N, Dobesh D, Smith S. Observational study on 255 mechanically ventilated COVID patients at the beginning of the USA pandemic. Available​content/​10.1101/​2021.05.28.21258012v1.full-text. Accessed June 13, 2021.

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. July 2021;19(7):6.

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